Can a catheter cause a urinary tract infection?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

Those with a urinary catheter that is indwelling as well as those who intermittently catheterize themselves are at increased risk of urinary tract infection. The former group has a higher risk than the latter. A catheter increases the chance that bacteria can track up into the bladder. Certain things will help to lower the risk when using an indwelling catheter. 

  • Clean around the urethra every day
  • Keep the catheter clean
  • Clean your anal area after a bowel movement
  • Always keep the catheter bag lower than your bladder so the urine doesn’t back track.
  • Empty the bag regularly
  • Wash your hands before and after you empty the bag
  • Have the catheter changed regularly depending on what your doctor recommends.

 For Intermittent catheter use:

  • Use a new catheter each time
  • Wash your hands before and after using the catheter
  • Wash the area surrounding the urethra thoroughly
  • Use proper lubrication
  • Keep your bladder relatively empty by performing the catheterization 4 to 6 times a day
Yes, a catheter can cause a urinary tract infection. Anytime a foreign body (like a catheter) is placed, it can introduce bacteria into the body which in turn can cause infections. In fact, catheter associated urinary tract infections are very common, especially in patients who have chronic indwelling catheters. Frequently, these patients are on antibiotics therapy to prevent any infections from occurring. If a catheter is needed, the best way to prevent infection is to make sure the catheter is sterile, placed by a professional, and removed as soon as possible.